When the news of Mike Conley's extension broke, I was loathe to do much more than report the news and comment a bit on how it effects future cap flexibility. After some time to meditate, I think I'm willing to weigh in:
- Let's first note that this deal is pretty close to the smallest the Grizz could possibly tender. Mike's qualifying offer next season was set to be about $6.5 million. In other words, if the Grizz wanted to restrict him, that would have been the minimum deal any team could offer. Assuming the standard 10% raises are built it, the extension will start at right around $6.7 million next season. Again, barely over the QO.
- I need to correct myself. Marc Gasol will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. But to everyone asking why the Grizz didn't lock up Marc first, the answer is still that they couldn't. To receive a contract extension off their rookie deal, a player needs to be signed for over 3 years. Marc was on a 3 year contract, and therefore is not eligible to get extended.
- To everyone who is worried that Conley's success so far is an aberration. You're probably right, with Z-Bo out, Conley's taking more shots.
- To the same individuals, even if Conley puts up stats closer to his career average, if he does that more efficiently, which seems to be the case given his improvement, then that's fine. In a starting lineup with 4 scorers, arguably Marc should be a 5th, efficiency is always more important than volume.
- Does this extension make Mike Conley overpaid? Yes. But so is just about every small-market player. If Conley had gotten away, who could the Grizz have easily replaced him with this offseason? Jamal Crawford and T.J. Ford are the only starting caliber options hitting free agency this year. Trading looks bleak too, the Grizz's only real excess talent with trade value is Xavier Henry.
In other words, we're in the Rudy Gay dilemma yet again. The Grizzlies sort of had to overpay to keep him, since they couldn't give him any less in RFA next summer, and if they didn't tender him a QO it's almost impossible to think Mike would resign as a UFA.
Replacement was an option, but it's not a good one. What teams have excess starting caliber point guards? Maybe the Cavaliers, but Mo Williams contract is even bigger. Maybe the Trailblazers, but Andre Miller's lack of shooting is just as awkward of a fit in Memphis. Minnesota will probably make Johnny Flynn available, but he's been far from impressive.
Everyone knows there's no love lost between Conley and myself, I think he's been trash and should have been replaced by Tyreke Evans, but the kid has looked better this year. Is he 5 years, $40 million better? Doesn't matter, because he's better than our other options.